About Writing On Wednesdays: What New Writers Want to Know

This Stellarcon panel about new writers consisted of Ed Schubert, Laurel Ann Hill and Tony Ruggiero.

There are no two ways about it; Laurel Ann Hill is an eccentric lady. At various panels she showed up with a big, fuzzy Russian hat on her head and at others she had dolls. The Russian hat I understood because that one room had temperatures colder than Siberia.

The various dolls weren’t props for her books. Maybe they were a type of security blanket? She wasn’t a big talker during the panels but she did enliven the room with just her presence.

The panel didn’t discuss the obvious like butt in seat, pen to paper. Instead they offered other tidbits for us to consider such as ways to look differently at our writing. 

One panelist, Ed Schubert, suggested putting your work away for a week or two. If possible for as long as a month or two. When you go back to it, it’s fresh.

Another way to keep your work fresh is to read your work out loud. This method allows you to view the story from another perspective. It also alerts you when a sentence is awkwardly phrased.

The panel agreed if you’re a serious writer then you must go to workshops. I’m not going to lie; it’s scary. The first one I ever went to was at Stellarcon. Intimidated to say the least, I was so out of my league it wasn’t funny.

The panel was comprised of professional editors, authors and publishers ready to critique the 100 words or so that we’d just wrote. Scary stuff but our privacy was taken very seriously, at least in the workshop I was in.

It was worth the mild panic attack when I had to read what I had just written off the top of my head because I walked away with a wealth of knowledge and a surprising bit of confidence.

Save your dollars because there’s only one problem with some workshops and that’s the expense. Well known writers charge out the rear for a workshop. We are talking at least $700 and higher for two or three days.

I don’t know about you but I can’t afford that right now. Some of them do offer videos that are cheaper and the cheapest of all would be the workshops offered at various cons. They are included with the cost of the con so you might want to check out what cons are held in your surrounding areas and see if they offer a workshop. 

Use critique groups and then beta readers to screen your work. There’s no way around this because no one is neutral about their own work. Someone, not family or friends, has to tell you your baby is a brat and needs a good revising.

Do not be afraid of a good critique. Find someone who can give constructive critiques and then set them loose on your work. Your attitude is so important. If you look at it as an opportunity to learn then you grow and write better.

Ed Schubert surprised me when he recommended writing short stories to gain experience. His method was to write a short story and focus on different aspects for each one such as voice, plot, character and so on.

Dean W. Smith advocates writing short stories to gain experience, too. He set a challenge for himself to write so many short stories in a year and from him I took up my own challenge. I decided to write short stories based on holidays. Right now it’s whipping my rear but I haven’t given up yet.

Revise as necessary but not too much; you don’t want to kill the story before it has a chance to live.

These next bits of advice I picked up from another website. Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta call them the dirty secrets of writing.

When you start your career as a professional writer it is not just an art, it is a business and should be treated as such.

If you want to learn the business of writing I highly recommend Dean W. Smith and his wife Kristine Kathryn Rusch. They have been in the business for years in every capacity. I’m sure they have forgotten more about writing than most people have ever learned. The best part about these two is they freely share their extensive knowledge.

Kristen Lamb is a social media expert. Read her blogs about building an author brand so when the time is right you already have an audience set to buy your books.

Once you are published? Don’t quit you day job until you are firmly established. KJA says he didn’t quit his job until he had at least seven bestsellers and still his wife continued to work for insurance, etc.

Uh, yeah. Makes sense to me but KJA tells the story of a man who sold one short story to a magazine then quit his job. He made $60,000 a year. Now there’s an optimist, a dreamer or a fool. Although he couldn’t have been too big a fool or he wouldn’t have been making that much money to begin with. You decide.

I put a question to the panelists at Stellarcon. Why should new writers worry about publishing? Shouldn’t they work on their craft first? Everyone disagreed. It was explained to me that’s the whole reason for writing, to share your stories. My point is shouldn’t you at least be good at it before you start to worry about publishing?

Publish, publish, publish. Here’s my advice to new writers: don’t worry about it. Yeah. I said it. Don’t worry about publishing. A writer writes, an author is published. Be a writer first, a good one. Perfect (or close to) your craft and then go about being an author.

When you’re ready to be an author: submit, submit, submit and then submit some more. Be ready for rejections and for inspiration read this

Do you have advice for new writers? Are you a new writer? Do you go to workshops? Have you been published and what or where? Do you agree with me about writing or are you all about being published? Have you been rejected and how did you handle it? How long have you been writing and why did you start?

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Diane
    Jun 08, 2011 @ 04:28:45

    I agree with reading aloud. I make my computer read and I follow the text. 🙂

    I paid for a lot of workshops and was disappointed. I learnt more doing Holly Lisle’s two courses then all the workshops and other courses put together, although I did absorb certain techniques from various workshops.

    I also agree with Ed Schubert on concentrating on one area while writing short stories (or novels) to improve each area then move on to the next area. The most important point is keep writing. As you do, you will improve.


  2. Tracey McGill
    Jun 08, 2011 @ 10:30:14

    I agree with you mom, you shouldn’t worry about being published. Now I have a question for you, when was the last time you wrote on your story?


  3. Tiffany A White
    Jun 09, 2011 @ 10:28:09

    Advice for new writers? Research conferences and attend craft workshops. Everyone thinks they can write, but you’d be surprised at what writing cliches you fall victim to. Why? Because even published authors that we read and television movies that we watch open with those same cliches so we don’t realize that agents & publishers are specifically not looking for that type of writing today.

    I started writing when I lost my job. Writing had always been a passion of mine and I felt that was my sign to get to it. I started writing, attended DFWcon (one of the best conferences in the county, especially for the registration fee), and took classes on plotting, beginnings, synopsis, screenplays (writing for television is a lot like writing a novel; you write with the act structure….), and more. I had to immediately come home and change my beginning, and then I was able to also lay out the entire books plot. Until then, I just outlined as I wrote the chapters.
    I also took a social media workshop and met Kristen Lamb at the conference. Now, she’s welcomed me into her Saturday writing group where we don’t just read pages to one another, we discuss the structure of our story.

    I also recommend joining some groups whether it be online or physically. I’m a member of three groups – #mywana (former social media workshop buddies of mine), #Yasb (a group of YA writers), and HPwriters (writing support that I met on twitter). Network, talk, critique, and listen. Now I have a critique partner & a beta reader. I haven’t been published, but I hope to one day!


    • curiocat
      Jun 10, 2011 @ 23:42:03

      Hey, Tiffany. I am sorry you lost your job but you’ve turned lemons into lemonade by taking the time you have to learn a new craft. That’s awesome. I hope you’re published someday, too. And remember you’re amongst the first folks I’ll contact when I get ready, too.

      The film I told you about is still in the works. The guy has been very busy with other projects that actually pay so I understand why he put it on the back burner. He assures me it will get done.


  4. ekcarmel
    Jun 12, 2011 @ 09:37:49

    I agree with you. I’m focusing on my writing right now. However, if information falls in my lap about publishing, whether from blogs like yours, Magical Words, Kristen Lamb, etc., I’m paying attention, even if I’m just filing it away for later.

    I’ve been to exactly one workshop, but due to bad weather, I was the only participant – so I don’t know if that really counts. Money and time seem to be the main problems for getting to cons and workshops right now. There are a couple of groups in the bigger cities near me and one of these days I want to go!


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